Reviewed by Mandi
It’s going to be hard for another book this year to impress me more than this one. Into the Shadows has great suspense. It has a tortured, broken, scarred hero who is an undercover villain. It has a heroine who is a former party hostess to her villain father who now kicks butt. And it has dirty, dirty sex. A damn fine combination.
Thorne had a very bad childhood, and has turned into a lethal, skilled fighter because of it. His sister was sold by his drugged out father to ten men, who ended up murdering her. Thorne has made it his life’s goal to track down these ten men and kill them. There is one left, a man named Jerrod who is the leader of Hangman, a ruthless criminal gang who launders money, and trades in weapons and drugs. Long ago, Thorne met a man named Dax, who is the head of an undercover team of agents called the Associates . Dax needs someone undercover to rise up in Hangman to learn the names of the government officials who are being bribed by Hangman. Thorne needs to rise in Hangman to get close and kill Jerrod – it’s the perfect partnership. So Thorne enters Hangman, and works his way up to number two. But Jerrod isn’t the top guy for nothing. He is a sociopath who starts getting very suspicious of his number two.
Nadia grew up with a father who was the head bad guy, so to say. Once he dies, the criminal gangs divide into four groups (one being Hangman). As a young adult, Nadia and her sister would play hostess to her father’s many parties. She was nicknamed The Party Princess, and would flirt and make all those criminals feel right at home. Thorne witnessed Nadia night after night, and his lust for her grew and grew. But Thorne never feels worthy enough of her attention, until one night he sees her crying on a roof. He approaches her and from here on out they start an extremely passionate and kinky love affair. Until it all goes south, as such passion tends to do.
Now two years later, Nadia is raising her young son and learns her mother might still be alive and horrifyingly, working in one of the criminal gang’s sweatshops. Along with her bodyguard, they start raiding sweatshops, freeing the women and searching for her mother. Meanwhile, Thorne tries desperately to make Jerrod believe he is loyal to him, which eventually leads him back to Nadia…..
So begins what is such a suspenseful, passionate, action filled story. Thorne and Nadia start with what Thorne describes as being in ‘lovehate.’ He lovehates her. He totally loves her, but hates her and the events that led to them breaking up. He doesn’t have much self-worth, even when he was with her, so it’s almost like he thrives in being in pain. He likes to be degraded and called bad names (in bed). Nadia found this fun and exciting at first, but now a few years later, she feels calling him a low life thug so he will have sex with her just sad.
I think what this author does so well is get us into the characters heads. This book has some extremely tense moments (the villain Jerrod is so creepy). As we sit in Thorne’s head as he tries to outsmart Jerrod, the author brings the reader right into the room. We are right there with Thorne or Nadia as they face danger. And it’s realistic danger. Crane sets up the arc so well, that as it unfolds, I did not want to put my kindle down. Seriously, the villains in this book are ruthless. I also love that her characters are not perfect or even want to be perfect. Nadia has moments of not being the best mother, handing off her kid to her sister who loves the kid, but isn’t necessarily the best person. Thorne is a killer. He kills bad guys but still, he has no hesitation when it comes to killing someone.
Since Thorne didn’t have a mother growing up, and lived with his druggie father, rarely going to school and having to survive on his own, he never picked up on the way families work, or even people in ‘normal’ relationships work. When he was dating Nadia years ago, when her father was still alive, there were times we saw his vulnerable side:
Thorne was thinking about two years ago, stretched out on the white fuzzy rug in front of the grand fireplace with Nadia, his hand moving over her hip in the firelight, his eyes on her. Three blissful months they spent together. She was the messed-up Party Princess, and he was the lowlife loser.
He flashed on all the stupid things he’d done during that time. Like going to movies alone to figure out how men were suppose to act with women they loved. What shit they would say and do. Because what the fuck did he know about couples? He’d even read one of the Hunter S. Thompson books she loved so much.
Of course, then he starts shooting up the rug they made love on two years ago, so let’s just say he still has a lot of issues. He is such a broken hero. And later when Thorne thinks they might be in love but there is a miscommunication and he ends up thinking he is just a plaything for her, his yearning to be degraded grows even more. I think this shows Thorne’s romantic mindset well, ‘the game’ being Nadia calling him a lowlife, loser etc….
Even when things were going badly, if one of them would start the game, there was only one way to finish it.
Because that kind of disdainful talk was like a Pavlovian bell to him, starting up the snarl and hunger inside hi heart, and he’ go to her and tear into her and maul her and kiss her, and she’d grab his hair and open to him.
Even after he’d discovered he was an interchangeable part to her, he’d still go to her like that. He could resist kindness because he knew it was always fake, but he could never resist her disdain because it was real and raw.
And it got him hot.
She had daddy villain issues. She was using him. He lovehated her. It was a dark little piece of clockwork they had going. Dark and completely explosive.
Nadia goes from ‘Party Princess’ to real-life mommy. She becomes responsible, and matures. When she is reunited with Thorne, and he starts asking her to call him lowlife again, she doesn’t want to play that game. She wants something more real in her life. It hurts her so much that he can’t move past their game. It shames her to go back to it. I think it’s tricky to get the ratio of suspense to romance correct in romantic suspense books, but Crane nails it. While I would say this isn’t an erotic book, the sex scenes are dirty with a kinky edge. They are gritty and fit the violent world these two live in well. Let me give you an example of Nadia telling a story to her bodyguard, Richard.
“And then his eyes move from the tear to my lips. And I’m thinking, yes.” She waited, let the silence be there. “And then he kisses me full-on…” She could still feel it, all that desperate, magical, full-on passion, like he’d been raised in the wild or something and didn’t know proper kissing or how to be gentle. Maybe just didn’t want to. She’d liked that. “Like a thousand stampeding horses. Like his social mask got ripped clear off and he was just this rawness.”
“Well, that is hot as fuck,” Richard whispered.
“And I grab onto his leather jacket sleeves.” She got onto the bed and grabbed onto Richard’s sleeves. And I pull him to me, and I’m thinking, just…invade me. That was my mood. Fuck me out of myself. Love me. Something. Anything. And the way he looks at me—” She gazed into his eyes, trying to re-create the intoxication of Thorne’s gaze.
“You think it was the crying?”
“Definitely. That’s what drew him. He walks across the roof and…” She gasped out the breath again, re-enacting the re-enactment now. “And I tell him he’s a lowlife, and he fucking mauls me.” She dropped her voice. “It was one of the single most hottest experiences of my life, Richard. One of the single most.”
Richard blew out a breath. “Is it wrong that I want to fuck him now, too?”
You don’t need to read the previous books in this series – each has a separate hero and heroine and storyline. Although I did love the previous book and you briefly meet Thorne.
Into the Shadows is suspenseful, gritty, violent, sexy – everything I want in a romantic suspense.